Wine, Art, and The Importance of Focus

Wine, Art, and The Importance of Focus

Sorry for the lofty title, but it’s been a culturally edifying few days here at STBNY. On Sunday I went to the Metropolitan Museum for the first time in ages and on Monday, we saw our friend Marco (he of the Ch√Ęteau d’Yquem) perform in an opera at the Hayden Planetarium. Delightful experiences both, they got me thinking about — what else? — wine. Specifically, about the importance of paying attention.

Whether you’re at the symphony, in a room full of Rembrandts, or even watching a baseball game, it’s way too easy to let your mind wander. You start out with the best of intentions, but before you know it, your head is somewhere else–you’re thinking about organizing your receipts, whether you need to buy more Brita filters, what to delete from your Netflix queue. We get easily overwhelmed. A great solution is to just focus on one thing. What the cellist is doing, the artist’s knack for capturing an expression of wry amusement, or, yes, the way that wine smells exactly like mushrooms.*

Sometimes if you try to take everything in, it just becomes too much. By isolating one fact, or one sensation, you’re able to really get what’s going on. So the next time you’re feeling undue pressure to Appreciate a Wine — whether that pressure comes from a waiter, your wine geek friend, a favorable review from a critic, or, God forbid, me — take a deep breath, block out the noise, and think about one thing only. It could be anything: the color of the wine, how it feels in your mouth, the fact that it reminds you of cherry cough syrup. Keep it in your sights as you continue to taste and drink the wine. Does the wine taste more or less like cherry cough syrup as time goes on? Has that flavor melded into another one, say, strawberry jam? Or freshly laid tar? There’s often so much going on in a glass of wine — and in our own heads when we’re trying to evaluate it — that this helps to quiet the noise. Our own expectations (“I’m supposed to love this!” “I’m never going to understand wine!”) can be our own worst enemies. Beginners are most susceptible to this, but even people who have been tasting and studying wine for years (ahem) are not immune. Try it — and tell me what you think.

*Note: these analogies do not mean I think that wine is art. Wine is many wonderful, beautiful things, but it is not art. A topic for another post.

A final programming note: don’t forget that this Friday is the deadline for the ZAP Zinfandel tasting giveaway! Submit your haikus, people!

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